Supreme Court order on right to work: a symbolic moment marred with disappointment

Posted On: 9 February 2018

Today, the Supreme Court order about the right to work for people in the asylum process came into effect. This is a symbolic moment, but one that is marred with disappointment for people who have waited for so long for the opportunity to work.

On the 17th January the Government released information about their interim proposal for the right to work via the Employment Permit process. Channelling access to this right via this process is inappropriate and restrictive.

Many professions, including shop assistants, secretaries, types of chef, and construction workers are excluded. It also requires a person to seek employment that has a minimum salary of €30,000 which is a significant barrier, as is the Employment Permit application fee of €500-1,000 which people would have to save for from their weekly allowance of €21.60.

The EU Reception Conditions Directive, which the government plan to opt into, requires that a member state provides people seeking asylum ‘effective access’ to the labour market. From the information released by Government, this test will not be met and the right to work threatens to be an illusion for many.

The Irish Refugee Council has consistently called for the right to work to be immediately available to people who have waited six months for an asylum decision and without restrictions to particular professions. The 2013 Directive allows Member States to introduce more favourable provisions than those contained in the actual Directive. Reflecting this, the majority of EU Member States allow people to work at six months or less. Restricting the right to particular professions is also optional to Member States. In our view it is unnecessary and will undermine the essence of the right, making it illusory rather than effective.

An accessible right to work provides an opportunity for people to move out of a position of State dependency. It also has positive implications for integration, mental well-being and future social cohesion. People should be given a fair opportunity to contribute to Ireland.